SMBs Including Real Estate, Watch Out for these Cyber Security Threats

By
Services for Real Estate Pros with IDTheftSecurity.com Inc

There used to be a time when hackers only targeted retailers, but these days, they can target almost any business in any industry, especially those that are not aware of the best cyber security practices.

One of these groups is the real estate industry, and according to a recent survey, approximately half of all businesses in real estate are not prepared to handle any type of cyberattack. Though Federal law requires specific industries, like banks and hospitals, to have security in place, the real estate industry is not one of them. If you work in real estate, here are some common cyber security threats to keep an eye out for.

Business Email Compromise – BEC

A BEC, or business email compromise, is a type of cyberattack that tricks a company into wiring cash into the bank account of a criminal. Hackers do this by “spoofing” email addresses, and then then sending messages to recipients that look like they are coming from someone they trust, such as the CEO or the head of accounting.

This happens a lot; the FBI has found that billions of dollars have been lost due to BEC scams. Yes, this is pretty scary, but there is more. The FBI has also said that those in the real estate industry are targeted, and anyone who participates in a real estate transaction is a possible victim.

Wire Scams During Mortgage Closings

There are also scams during closings. Here’s how it works. Before the sale of a home is complete, the buyer gets an email from their Realtor, a title attorney, or another trusted person in the industry with the details of the date, time, and locations where the closing will take place. Scammers know this, so they create a different email that tells the buyer where to wire the money. But it’s right to the bank account of the scammer. Within minutes of the transfer, the money is pulled out of the account, and the scammer is gone.

The Internet Crime Complaint Center, part of the FBI, shared statistics that from 2015 to 2017 there were more than 10,000 victims of these scams, and the losses here totaled more than $56 million…and it’s growing all of the time.

Ransomware

Another thing that those in the real estate industry need to be aware of is ransomware. This is a type of malware that shuts down a network or a device so that you can’t get into it until you pay up. This is a very profitable scam for hackers, and it is becoming very popular year over year. All it takes is one person on your team to click on a link, and the entire network could be compromised.

Keep in mind that ransomware attacks don’t just target computers. These attacks can target any devices that connects to the internet, including smart thermostats, smart lights, and smart homes. When a digital device gets a ransomware infection, they stop working.

Malware

Though most people have heard about ransomware, there are other forms of malware, too. For example, you have likely heard of spyware or Trojans, which are still out there. Specifically, these are used for cybercriminals to spy on those they are targeting. They can get access to a victim’s bank account, or even steal their email inbox. Hackers also use malware to steal personal info or employee information, and they can get things like personal client information Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, and more. Just knowing this, you can understand why those in the real estate industry are targets.

Cloud Computing Providers

If you work in the real estate industry, your livelihood is at risk thanks to cloud computing. This, you might know, is a more economical way to backup information, so while it is necessary, there are risks. However, hackers can get into these “clouds,” and if they do, they can get access to all of the data in there.

It may seem that by using a cloud computing company that you are actually lowering your risk of becoming a target, but the truth is this: there is still a risk because your devices are likely not as secure as you think, and your passwords are probably not as strong as you think. This means making sure you’re not using the same passcode for any other accounts and enabling two factor authentication for everything.

Don’t Let Your Real Estate Company Become a Victim of a Cyberattack

Now that you know your real estate company can be a target of a scammer, you may wonder how you can lower your risks. Here are some great tips:

  • Write New Policies – One thing you can do is to write new policies to keep things safe. For instance, when you think of BEC scams, if you have a policy in place where you ban wiring money to someone based only on information from an email, you won’t have to worry about BEC scams any longer. Instead, make it a rule that you must talk to the person sending the email, and you must be the one to make the call to confirm. Don’t call the number that is in the email, though. Confirm that it is correct. It could be the number of the scammer.
  • Teach Your Staff – You also want to make sure to have better training for your staff. Most of the attempts at hacking come from email, so when you train your staff to stop blindly opening attachments nor click on links in emails, you can protect yourself from these scams. You also should look into a Cyber, Social & Identity Protection Certification This is where you can learn more about the methods and strategies that you can employ to cut down on any incidents. You can also learn about developing procedures that help keep your clients safer.
  • Teach Your Clients – Speaking of clients, you want to help them, too. All wire scams having to do with closings can be prevented in most cases. Make sure your clients know that in the process of selling or buying a home, there are going to be a lot of emails floating around, including those from Realtors, mortgage companies, insurance companies, home inspectors, real estate attorneys, and more. Make sure they know that before clicking on anything or wiring money that they should first call their Realtor. They should never, ever send money unless they get the go-ahead to do it, and then they still need to make sure to confirm that the transfer is going to the right place.
  • Back Up Your Devices and System – Always make sure that everything is backed up, including your devices and your network. This way, if you do get hacked, you won’t have to pay a ransom, and the information is easy to get back.
  • Check on Cloud Computing Contracts – It is also a good idea to look into what you are getting from your cloud computing provider. They don’t like to take responsibility for a cyberattack, and there might even be something in your contract with them that says they won’t. So, you should start your own negotiations with the company in question about what you can do about something like this.
  • Buy Cyber-Liability Insurance – Finally, you should consider getting cyber-liability insurance. This could definitely help make things less risky for your real estate business. There are all types of different policies out there, so do some research or speak to a professional.

ROBERT SICILIANO CSP, is a #1 Best Selling Amazon author, CEO of CreditParent.com, the architect of the CSI Protection certification; a Cyber Social and Identity and Personal Protection security awareness training program.

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Re-Blogged 2 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Ginger Harper 01/22/2021 06:54 AM
  2. Paul S. Henderson, REALTOR®, CRS 01/22/2021 01:36 PM
Topic:
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Ambassador
2,030,091
Hannah Williams
HomeStarr Realty - Philadelphia, PA
Expertise NE Philadelphia & Bucks 215-820-3376

Robert Siciliano You always have such wonderful information to provide. I hope you will come back and to our Zoom session and teach us more when you have time 

Jan 20, 2021 09:36 AM #1
Rainmaker
717,225
Debra Leisek
Bay Realty,Inc Homer Alaska - Homer, AK

for some reason your posts always scare me a little

It is really frightening what people will do to steal your data and money

If scammers could put that energy to good the world would be a better place

Thank you for sharing your knowledge!!

Jan 21, 2021 01:25 AM #2
Rainmaker
406,147
Brenda J. Andrew
ULTIMA REAL ESTATE - Corpus Christi, TX
Professional Realtor in Corpus Christi, TX

This is great advice Robert!  Thank you so much for sharing.  I am sharing this with my clients!  Have a great day and thanks again for your wisdom and knowledge.

Jan 21, 2021 03:18 AM #3
Rainmaker
1,724,077
Kat Palmiotti
406-270-3667, kat@thehousekat.com, Broker, Blackstone Realty Group - brokered by eXp Realty - Kalispell, MT
The House Kat

Great advice! We discuss wire transferring money before an offer is even made, and the dos/don'ts that surround that process. And then we repeat prior to anyone transferring money.

Jan 21, 2021 06:03 AM #4
Ambassador
1,787,971
Alan May
Jameson Sotheby's International Realty - Evanston, IL
A moving experience!

I received some potential "ransomeware" just this morning.  It had one of my actual passwords in the subject line... and then threatened to release a video of me visiting a porno site to my entire address book unless I sent them thousands of dollars in bitcoins.

It concerned me that they had captured one of my often used passwords, but I'm not worried about them releasing some video of me... cause I haven't visited a porno site, so there's no video.  G'wan ahead with your bad self, while I go and change that password.

Jan 21, 2021 07:10 AM #5
Ambassador
4,424,386
Jeff Dowler, CRS
eXp Realty of California, Inc. - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

Hi Robert:

Thanks for a well-deserved feature with some excellent advice. Bookmarked!

Jeff

Jan 21, 2021 10:39 AM #6
Rainmaker
2,299,925
Patricia Feager, MBA, CRS, GRI,MRP
DFW FINE PROPERTIES - Flower Mound, TX
Selling Homes Changing Lives

Robert Siciliano - Thank you! You are my favorite blogger!

Jan 21, 2021 02:01 PM #7
Rainmaker
54,032
CANDACE (Candy) STEVENS
Number Cruncher LLC - Overton, NV
Helping Taxpayers Resolve IRS problems

Thank you for posting this information Robert Siciliano.  These are real threats that people need to take seriously.

 I had a client who got hit with Ransomware.  It was horrible.  ALL PDF's on their server got encrypted.  Thank heavens they had a backup but they still lost valuable information.  

Jan 22, 2021 04:34 PM #8
Rainer
521,200
Kimo Jarrett
WikiWiki Realty - Huntington Beach, CA
Pro Lifestyle Solutions

I use the cloud, including constant back up, secure email servers, PCMatic, Malware protection, password protection, automatically clean my computer every evening and exercise vigilance when dealing with OPM and my own money via the Internet. So with all of those tools, is cyber-liability insurance necessary and if so, why?

Jan 23, 2021 12:49 AM #9
Rainer
2,925
Nadya Kaur
Autaugaville, AL

very interesting, good job and thanks for sharing such a good blog.

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Jan 25, 2021 12:20 AM #10
Rainmaker
1,049,153
Jan Green
Value Added Service, 602-620-2699 - Scottsdale, AZ
HomeSmart Elite Group, REALTOR®, EcoBroker, GREEN

Excellent reminders for all of us in real estate!

Jan 29, 2021 04:17 PM #11
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Robert Siciliano

Realty Security and Identity Theft Expert Speaker
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